The only way in which I even remotely resemble Martha Stewart is weekday meal planning - no, I’m not smoking my own lox or carving radish roses, but I’ve learned to prep dinners in the morning, so on hectic days of driving kids to activities until dinnertime, I have something ready to heat up. This is less a display of organization than a bribe to myself (if I get through the hellish afternoon, I’ll actually have a dinner I enjoy instead of stale leftovers or take-out I can’t afford).
This morning was fairly typical - during the time it took me to assemble one meatloaf, I went through a day’s worth of perimenopausal mood changes. First I was patting myself on the back for getting dinner started. Then I started to feel sorry for myself - I’m not feeling well, and if I didn’t have kids to shlep and cook for, I’d be in bed. Then I started blaming myself - I’m a bad mom, I haven’t taught my kids enough to make dinner for themselves, alternating with, oh, come on, I’m not that sick, it’s just a cold, stop the pity party. (And this was just while I was getting the ingredients out!)
Chopping the onion gave me an excuse to cry, which strangely enough led to a wonderful sense of caring for my family (my husband loves this new meat loaf recipe I cobbled together from a few different cookbooks plus my childhood memory of the one my mom used to do). I may not be as famous or financially successful as, oh, nearly everyone with whom I went to college, but I’m a grounded, devoted mom and wife who knows what’s really important. At that point, I decided to try cooking the onions before I put them in, to see if I could avoid the “eww, what’s the crunchy white stuff” complaints, and I started to feel sorry for myself again, all I’m doing is cooking and cleaning instead of writing brilliant essays or getting quoted by the New York Times about how to solve the fiscal crisis.
Then I figured, what the hell, this is life, put on your big girl panties and be grateful you have enough money to buy food, enough free time to prep dinner in the morning, and a family to cook for. I even had a moment of feeling connected to my mother (as I used her trick of ‘frosting’ the loaf with ketchup, which sounds incredibly dull and suburban but keeps the meatloaf moist). And in the midst of all this newfound blissful serenity, I promptly knocked over the open bottle of Worcestershire sauce and gave myself extra work to do. (Fortunately, I was cooking while indulging in my current guilty pleasure, watching taped reruns of America’s Next Top Model - I know, my husband is horrified that an ivy league graduate has such unintellectual taste, but I think it’s a hoot and I occasionally learn something - but anyway, having the mess to wipe up let me finish the episode guilt free.)
They say that cooks transmit some of their emotions into the food they prepare - geez, I can’t begin to imagine what I’ve put into this meatloaf! But here’s the basic recipe, and feel free to add in your own mood swings -
Chop one small onion really fine, and saute in a bit of butter. Meanwhile, beat one egg, add the sauteed onion, a pound or so of lean ground beef, a handful of breadcrumbs, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, approx. 1/2 cup light sour cream, a splash of soy sauce, a dollop of ketchup, and a tiny bit of mustard. Mush together, put in a loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray, and ‘frost’ with more ketchup. Bake at 350 for oh, around 35-45 minutes or until it’s as done as you like.